Individuals who consume high fiber diets are as much as 30% less likely to develop heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases such as strokes according to recent evidence.
One study, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine in February 2004, looked at data from 10 previous studies in order to determine the effects of dietary fiber intake on the risk of heart disease. In total the 10 studies included a combined 91,058 men and 245,186 women over study periods of 6 to 10 years. Over that time 5,249 cases of heart disease were observed with 2,011 deaths due to heart disease occurring.
The researchers found that every 10 gram per day increase in dietary fiber intake was associated with a 14% decrease in the incidence of heart disease and a 27% decrease in death due to heart disease.
The study found that both fiber from cereal, which resulted in a 25% reduction in coronary deaths, and from fruit, which led to a 30% reduction in coronary deaths, were beneficial however no association was found between fiber from vegetables and a reduction in heart disease.
A second study, published in the journal Circulation in 1996, found that the risk of dying from a coronary event was 29% lower for those in the highest 20% of fiber intake compared to those in the lowest 20%. The results of that study are presented in the graph below.
It is believed that fiber has positive effects on several heart disease risk factors, high fiber intake can lead to a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels, reduced weight and body fat, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, and improved blood sugar control. Fiber has also been implicated in a reduction in the risk of certain cancers such as colo-rectal cancer.
Fiber comes in two forms: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber and both are believed to have similar heart health benefits. Most health professionals recommend that individuals get between 25 and 40 grams of fiber each day. Most people fall far short of these levels however with the average American consuming just 15g per day.
Excellent sources of fiber include (percentage of fiber included in brackets): lentils (30.0%), almonds (11.8%), oats (10.6%), bran cereal (10.0%), peanuts (9.5%), dates (7.5%), prunes (7.1%), cooked peas (5.2%), avocados (4.9%), apples (3.9% with skin on), broccoli (3.0%), carrots (3.0%), spinach (2.7%), and bananas (2.4%).
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